Top Mather High School wrestler conflicted with pull of soccer

By Jaaziah Bethea

Two days a week, Mather senior Butoyi Anaclet misses wrestling practices for the sport he truly loves: soccer.

It is a tough choice for Anaclet considering he is one of the state’s top wrestlers.

“I love soccer so much that I will basically choose it over wrestling any day,” Anaclet said. “The decision that I make will affect the coaches, my teammates and everyone else who has seen me wrestle. It’s sad to leave it all behind and I know I would be a big disappointment to everybody. So, after I thought about it like that, I decided to stay and finish out the season.”

Anaclet, who is ranked top 10 per in Class AA, for the 106-pound weight class, has been playing soccer since a young age and said he will ultimately choose soccer over wrestling.  He misses wrestling practice on Monday and Wednesday evenings so that he can attend indoor soccer practice during the winter months.  His role as a starting center midfielder for the U18 Chicago Fire Junior City indoor club soccer team gives him hope that his soccer future is bright.

Mather wrestling coach, Ryan Kuchnia has been understanding of Anaclet missing practice, although it wasn’t that way initially. But Kuchnia doesn’t question Anaclet’s athletic ability.

“He’s certainly dedicated to athletics, but it’s tough playing it fifty-fifty with soccer throughout the entire season and having him give up two practices out of the five a week,” Kuchnia said. “I feel like it has really hurt his growth this year and hurt him tournament-wise because he’s not putting together enough wrestling practices to be competitive at a high level.”

Despite all the conflict involved around him participating in two sports, Anaclet finds himself sticking with wrestling at least for the end of the season, “I have built a relationship with my teammates and I {couldn’t let them down},” Anaclet said.

Anaclet developed his passion for soccer as a child in Tanzania, following in the footsteps of his father, Augustin Ndikumagenge.

His father has taken a hands-off approach on influencing Anaclet’s decision on whether he decides to stick with soccer or continue sacrificing time to hone his skill and participate in wrestling.

“I told him you need to choose; we are your parents we can’t choose for you,” Ndikumagenge said. “It depends on him. He needs to choose which one will be the best for him in the future.”

Despite his being a part time wrestler, Kuchnia remains optimistic about Anaclet’s post season.

“Based on how serious he’s been lately, he’ll win regionals and win enough matches at sectionals to get himself down to the show (state tournament) at Champaign,” Kuchnia said.

Anaclet looks to improve on his performance from last year, and his goal is to make the state tournament. Last season he made the sectionals, after placing top three in the regional tournament. He will need to place top four in the sectional tournament to qualify for the state tournament.

However, Anaclet’s ultimate goal is to become a professional soccer player. Before pursuing professional goals Anaclet plans to play college soccer.  He currently has been accepted to Michigan State and DePaul and is waiting to hear how much financial aid he will receive, before making his final decision.

If soccer doesn’t work out as Anaclet hopes, he does have other potential plans to fall back on.

“I’m going to school to study Kinesiology,” Anaclet said.  “So, that can lead to a career in physical therapy or something related to sports.”

Photo at top: Anaclet lifting 45-pound weight during wrestling practice. (Jaaziah Bethea/MEDILL)